The first flight test of the F-35 STOVL version, originally scheduled around the end of March, will be delayed until late September, the acting F-35 deputy PEO said today at the Navy League conference.
There is good news. The refreshingly candid and approachable deputy PEO, Capt. Wade Knudson, said that the delay will not cost taxpayers any more money. The reason is that he has apparently done an excellent job of managing one of the most difficult aspects of a major program -- when to hire people. Knudson said he had postponed hiring some of the people needed for the next phase of the program and has very few people "just sitting around" and waiting. This is traditionally one of the greatest program costs incurred when a program faces a delay.
Reasons for the delays: fixing the engine that failed, "tweaking" the software controlling the leading edges and ensuring that the nine doors that open during STOVL all operated correctly.
And there is more good news. The F-35 STOVL version had faced a serious weight problem -- some 3,000 pounds. But the STOVL pit tests indicate that the plane now enjoys a surfeit of power, possessing an "excess" 300 to 500 pounds of thrust, Knudson said. Given the cost of reducing weight is between $500,000 and $1 million per pound, Knudson was understandably proud of the program's success in whittling the plane's weight down.